One in every five people living in a developing country has a disability. It’s a staggering figure, but extreme poverty is a key cause of disability due to lack of access to adequate nutrition, clean water and sanitation; barriers to preventative and curative health care; and unsafe working conditions.
Discrimination and institutional and attitudinal barriers also mean that people with disabilities and their families are less likely to have access to rehabilitation, education, skills training and employment opportunities – opportunities which could otherwise reduce poverty. This cycle is a difficult one to break.
Image from www.endthecycle.info
Australia has historically displayed global leadership in ensuring the representation of people with disability in its aid program. Australia was among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. We have continued to take positive steps to make sure that our overseas aid programs are disability-inclusive, with initiatives such as Development for All 2015-2020: Strategy for strengthening disability-inclusive development in Australia’s aid program being replicated by other governments, including the United Kingdom. But we can do more to encourage other countries to do the same.
We think it's time we had an Ambassador for Disability-Inclusive Development!
There's precedent. Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls consults on and represents issues affecting women and girls in our region, and actively encourages and supports our neighbours to develop gender-sensitive national policy. An Ambassador for Disability-Inclusive Development could work in a similar way to help ensure that disability inclusion becomes part of other national development agendas.
In 2013, the Australian Government announced the creation of the role of Ambassador for Disability-Inclusive Development, but an election was called and the commitment was soon abandoned. We believe that the time is right to reintroduce this commitment, and reaffirm Australia’s global leadership in this area.
The Australian Government should celebrate International Day of People with a Disability on 3 December by announcing the establishment of an Ambassador for Disability-Inclusive Development.
The role should be adequately resourced with staff, and be independent from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
And perhaps most importantly, this Ambassador should themselves be a person with a disability.
You can help make this a reality by contacting your local Member of Parliament (MP) to let them know that you believe that one in five people in the developing world deserve special representation in our foreign policy and aid program, and ask them to:
• Make a representation to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to commit to appointing an Australian Ambassador for Disability-Inclusive Development; and
• Make a speech in Parliament highlighting and supporting the positive steps taken to strengthen disability inclusion in the Australian aid program.
Contacting your local representative by using this email form is a great first step. To make this contact more effective, Micah Australia encourages you to consider writing a handwritten letter, making a phone call or even visiting your local Member’s office. We’ve created a handy guide to contacting your local representative which you can access here.
You can also help by spreading the word by tweeting or sharing this action with your Facebook friends by clicking the links below.